Should I buy an SME 30/12A for 15K?

I am a vinyl newbie with maybe 100 LPs (or less) in my collection. I have had a Technics SL1210GAE for past 2 years, I just plugged and played it. It’s good but my digital is almost as good or sometimes better.

I recently heard a SME 30/12A at the dealer’s, and it blew my mind, and my digital was no where close (the dealer had almost the same digital -- mine is Nagra Tube DAC, his was the Nagra HD DAC -- and we did on spot comparison, not an apples to apple of course but still best that we could under the circumstances).


Now given my relative inexperience with vinyl (I know next to nothing about setup), should I plunge for this offer which is offered to me at 1/3rd the retail price and probably an endgame TT for me.



Also, is this as great an offer as I think it is, are there better TTs at 15K$ retail price (I cannot/will not buy used) than the SME 30/12A?


 At that price grab it!

SME - SME Model 30/12A - includes Series V-12 tonearm $53,900.00 Please Order by Phone Toll Free 1-800-716-3553.

Availability: Special Order

Category: Turntables

Label: Equipment

Product No.: T SME30-12ARM

SME-SME Model 3012 - Includes Series V-12 Tonearm-Turntables…

The following is a Post I have put in another thread very recently.

OL (Origin Live) The assessment being given is in relation to their long-term owned SME and not the Idler Drive.

The Belt Drive TT has their attraction.

The Cartridge used is a Sumiko Pearwood.

If considering used and can the want to purchase can be slowed down for a period of time, this type of set up can be found for close to £6500 if buying Used and New combined.


A friend who has been a long term owner of a SME 20 / 12 using a SME V.

Not too long ago changed the TT and after a Idler Drive Experience has chosen a Scheu TT, that is modified with OL TT Parts and has a OL Illustrious. Their assessment as they have the best recollections of A respected Belt Drive Set Up in the home system is that it is a exceptional TT and great VFM.  


There is one here on Agon for $8500 with the Series 300 arm from a seller in NJ. Why spend $15K? You can upgrade the arm later.


That’s not the 30/12A that the OP is asking about. Different table different arm!

If you’re expecting good sound from any decent turntable- a minimum level of phono stage must be employed.

$3-5K is where to be.

mistake you have100 albums not worth it you can purchase a 7k table new that will outperform that table 


look at the Merill Williams real we did a shootout vs a 50k Kronos the Merrill sounded just as good

table is  built out of energy absorbing high density rubber laminates

Dave and Troy

Aufio Intellect nj

Merrill Williams dealer 

That's a fantastic bargain. If you buy it you're set for life. I assume it has a Series V arm. Is the dealer throwing in the fitted cartridge too? If not, you'll need to make sure you have a worthy cartridge and phono stage.

I have two SME 10 TTs, and they are plenty good enough for me. You'd be getting a 30 for the same price I paid for them.

At your dealer, was it the same cartridge? Was it the same, phono stage, amplifier, and speakers as you use at home? If not, how do you really know that the SME performed any better than your technics? If you just want to buy the SME 30 because it seems like a great deal, and if you have thea disposable income, you don’t need to ask us. Just go for it. but I would not rely upon that one listening session as a basis for any belief that having the SME 30 in your home system will be a revelation, apart from the revelation that comes with having spent a great deal of cash. 

If you plan to expand your vinyl collection, then SME 30/12A for 15K is a steal! 

Until you know what cartridge and phono amp the dealer demoed the SME with, you cannot know how the SME sounds in your rig. $15k is enough to ask the dealer over to demo it in your place.

Come to think of it, we don't know what cartridge and phono stage you are using. 

Has the Collection of 100 Albums been collected over the past two years.

Have you bought Individual Albums or some Batched/Job Lot deals and are they New.

I am going to assume, and happy to be corrected if inaccurate, about your purchases of Albums.

Have the accumulated 100 Albums been purchased as Individual New Items over the past Two Years ? In my assessment in the present Marketplace, the cost for such Source Material will be close to $2500 for the Items without Shipping Costs. This is a Big Commitment by a Hobbyist, when there is other Recorded Source Material available most likely of the same recordings, that can be attained at lesser outlay, especially as you have a investment in Digital already. 

I have heard a Digital Set Up used in a Predominantly Vinyl Source System, that has a New Purchase Price of approx' £5K present itself as very attractive as a comparison to the Vinyl Set Up with a New Purchase Price of approx' £25K.

Getting the absolute best from Vinyl using the Mainstream Brands as either Used or New Purchases can accumulate to substantially more in costs that creating as a attractive presentation using Digital as the Source Material.  

I am a little like your approach to the Vinyl LP as a Source in relation to the Digital Source. I have not too long been into Digital and have created a Digital Set Up in the main system only a few years ago. I had to purchase CD's as the only ones available were used in a Car or a few of my Son's Gangsta Rap type of genre.

The Digital Set Up put together with very limited investigation and experience, even though guided by some who are experienced in Digital,  has created a Source that integrated into my System very well, it is very attractive to have musical encounters with, and it has been used in place of the Vinyl Set Up on numerous occasions. 


If you don’t buy that table can you give me the dealer information? I will buy it in a heartbeat!

If you have the money go for it. 
You can upgrade other components later.

‘There is always something better out there.

Great deals don’t happen that often.

Joe Nies

Dear @essrand  : " I am a vinyl newbie with maybe 100 LPs (or less) "

If it's that way then maybe you are not achieving the most with your today analog rig and is improbable you can do it with the SME 30.

Ask your self: if some one gives you a F1 race carr in 100K will you buy it? ( I hope you are not a race man pilot. )


Digital is more easy to " understand " than analog that always is a " nigthmare " but even in digital you choosed a tube DAC that certainly is not the best electronic technology to a DAC if you want top quality performance.


Anyway, is up to you but according your post makes no sense to buy it just because is a good offer.

You can use that kind of $$$$$ to up-grade your Digital rig.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


Thanks for the responses.

Apologies forgot to mention my system:

Devore O96. Accuphase E-650, Nagra Tube DAC, Acoustic revive cabling.

@dogberry , it includes the V-12 tonearm.

My phono is the AD-50 card in the Accuphase E-650 amp.

@lewm, the phono in the dealer's was a Boulder 508, the speakers were different than my home (a Rockport Lyra, I think), so yes, it was not an apple to apples comparison, but it was the best I could do.

@lalitk : For the sound I heard, I WOULD expand my vinyl collection.

@pindac: the 100 LPs were bought over a period of 7-8 years.

@rauliruegas I don't need to upgrade my digital rig, as of now IMHO (from reading forums) the Nagra Tube DAC is probably the 4th best DAC available in the market right now and 15k wont get me any higher in the ranking :) ---> okay this is a controversial statement but not the point of this post.






But I am mostly leaning towards your opinion of the situation. @rauliruegas. But I feel like if I can get even close to the sound of what I just heard at the dealers, I would be more than happy to jump into the analog rabbit hole. This is what's keeping me up at nights wondering if I should go for it or not.

@noromance my cartridge is the Nagaoka JT1210 cartridge specially made for this TT, it came with the Technics 1210GAE ( only in europe, in the USA this TT didn't come with a cart). The dealer used a Clearaudio Davinci cart (which costs more than my entire analog rig). 

I shall put my flame-proof pants on and utter the opinion that I feel a cartridge can make more difference than a TT. Sure, the world's best cartridge (I believe we already decided that question...) can't show how good it is with a poor TT, and vice versa. If you brought that SME home and put the Nagaoka on it, you would not hear what you heard at the dealership. Nor would you if you put that Clearaudio pickup on the Technics. If you get the SME, you pretty much have to get the best cartridge you can to go with it. Then neither one holds back the other.


I can somewhat relate to your predicament as your audio system is very similar to mine. I ran SME 15-AV, Hana Umami Red Cart, alternating between AD50 and E.A.T. E-GLO phono w/external power supply into Accuphase E-650 / Tannoy Canterbury’s. I loved every minute of my Vinyl playback until I decided to up the ante on my digital playback. Now my digital, mainly streaming has transcended the vinyl playback and account for 95% listening. My point is, if you’re committed in your pursuit, both Vinyl or Digital can be equally satisfying. My ‘Digital’ system is listed here for your reference. 

If your budget allows, dive into SME 30/12A but be prepared to spend another $10-$15K in Cart, phono until you feel, you are there. This is one of those itch that won’t simply go away until you dive deep into analog rabbit hole or you may choose to upgrade digital front end.

What is your digital? Streaming or CD playback?


This is playing out as anticipated. You might regroup and start over. Suggest something like an ARC PH6 phono amp and Lyra Delos cartridge to start getting a renewed feel for analog. Then buy some 60s records on Discogs.

You can do a heck of a lot better in digital then nagar for less$$ and easill6 compete or beat SME setup 

the new Denafrips 12 anniversary Terminator +,  the Excellent T&A 200 Dac

or Holo springs May KTE , beat the nagar with Ease. , hook these up 

especially the T&A dac with Roon , and on the back end Have HQ player running 

with a sufficient high end fast server ,it then turns your digital withSuper powerful

DSP that sounds state of the art that you can Taylor the sound exactly to your taste 

vinyl is not even close which btw can only produce 12 bits ,when top digital 

can reach true 20 bits plus the DSP power once you take the time to learn all the possibilities. Until you have tried this ,you cannot comment on it it’s platform is built into Roon , and T&A designed the200dac around HQ player with many  filters and dithering options , it’s free for 2 weeks check it out .great digital is here !

Add me to the list of interested buyers, if you don’t purchase the table.

Stating the obvious, Rockport Lyras are in a whole different league than your Devores.

If you have the money to spend, and spending it will not impact your ability to eat or pay rent, then yes, that is one hell of a deal.  However, just because it is a third of the normal retail price doesn't mean it is going to be the turntable setup that gives you the Nirvana sound you are seeking.  I'd like to second the comment about Merrill Williams equipment -- punches WAY ABOVE the price point and the R.E.A.L. 101.3 model could very well be your "end game" table.


This comment may be controversial to many on this Forum, but here in Winston-Salem, NC, where I live, there is a multi-Grammy Award winning Studio Mastering individual who researched and auditioned turntables for his studio, and he bought the Rega P10.  Considering he has a TW Acustic Raven LS in his personal system ($20,000 turntable), I think that says quite a lot about the Rega P10.  I know many here have made negative comments about Rega products -- which frankly I don't understand.  But, everyone has their own opinion.  Personally, I think the Rega P8 and P10 are fantastic buys.


Good luck on your search and vinyl exploration.  I've collected vinyl since 1971, and I'll love to be in the position you are in right now!  Cheers and Happy New Years!



I would unhesitatingly buy it. Every purchase of a highly rated professionally reviewed piece of audiophile gear has been a revelation to me and never a disappointment. A beautiful turntable.

It would seem, at that price, you won’t have any difficulty selling it should it not suitably impress once set up in your system. Keep the current set up so you can do a direct comparison and then sell which ever one is the “lesser” rig.


Its a nice problem to have :)



Once you step up to that game, everything must be equal to get the most of vinyl sound . Go for it and make your life enjoy as long you can afford.

Don't think twice about it. If (and with the big SME, it's pretty unlikely) you ever abandon analogue, you'll get most or all of your money back when you sell. A great turntable with a mediocre cartridge will still sound very, very good. And turntables don't wear out after 500 hours!

If I didn't already own an air bearing, I'd be salivating at the prospect.

If you expect to continue into records and significantly add to your collection over time, the SME table has always considered to be one of the best and it's a great beginning to updating your phono system. It's good enough that if you want as time goes by it will complement all or at least every update to your cartridge and phono stage and any other changes to your system. EVERY review of it has been totally impressive.

If you like it and you think it will make you happy, get it. 

it is a solid setup and good deal. 

Absolutely, as long as it is in good shape and it is shipped in it's original packing. It is a fine turntable. It will outperform 95% of the turntables out there.

You are comparing Rockport Lyras with Boulder electronics to Devore and Accuphase? Surely you jest 

Post removed 

Great table arm combo for the price. Is that from Audio Lounge in the UK by chance? Looks like there are quite a few of us who would purchase this table if your not going to. Pull the trigger and don’t look back.

@OP  - I previously owned a 20/12a and replaced it with a Technics SL 1200GAE, keeping the same cartridge. I partly did it as an interim step to fund an upgrade to my digital system. However, the SME was not hands down better than the Technics. I would imagine that the 30/12 should better it but I would do a fairly extensive audition before deciding. That said, at the price being offered, the 30/12 looks like a genuine bargain and you should easily get your money back if you ever sell it. One last thing I would consider though is whether, given the size of your record collection and the fact that pretty much all vinyl relases of new music are from digital files, it is really worth investing that much in analogue versus improving your digital setup.

@ronboco Please re-read my post :), I was comparing digital and analog on the same rockport/nagra/boulder system.


@lalitk Thanks, it does look like we have a similar system. I took a look at your digital, looks like I have a long ways to go before I can claim that I have my digital setup fine-tuned, which bolsters @rauliruegas advice/opinion on this issue.

I read somewhere else (I could be wrong) that you are planning to upgrade to an Etsuro Gold cart, is it to make your analog come closer to your digital? And yes, it looks like it will be another 15K to make the 30/12 sing, which gives me a pause.

@yoyoyaya Good points worth pondering on.

But at least I have an answer to the question if this TT is the worth the money. And most of you have confirmed that this is a fantastic deal. Now it's more of a personal question, of whether to take a "real" plunge into analog.





In my local HiFi Group the presentation of the Modified SP10 MkII has created quite few changes to how Vinyl Replays are carried out.

A Heavily Modified Mitchell Orbe was exchanged for a SP10 MkII.

A Heavily Modified Upgraded Linn L12 was exchanged for a SP10R.

A SME 20/12 was the go to TT within the Group, and shortly after the growing popularity of the SP10 Models was sold on as it was believed there was more to be achieved. This is now being described as a proven outcome as the Scheu with OL Upgrades and the OL Illustrious are now claimed to be an improved Belt Drive Set Up.

A member who is time served as a CD Aficionado, has dug into their Stores and now has a SP10 MkII on the Workbench to put to use.

The Modified SP10 MkII that is an ongoing project, has put my long term involvement with Modifying Idler Drives to bed. Even my professionally Modified Model with Purpose Produced Speed Controller does not get a look in, it is a demo' or loaned model only now. It was the Idler Drive TT, that finished my relationship with the Linn Deck used in the 90's.

Apart from the SP 10R and Tonearm coming in at approx' £16K new, none of the other options have been costing anywhere near the $15K for the SME under question.

Additionally, I feel quite confident in stating, the resale of the Originally Owned TT's by a couple of the owners who have sold their TT's on, have been left with spare monies in the coffers when the replacements that are claimed to be a betterment have been purchased and brought up to a desired Spec'.  




“upgrade to an Etsuro Gold cart”


My project to further improve the analog is now on hold due to progress made in my digital front end. I am couple of pieces away from what I set out to do since early 2021.

@fjn04 Correct. Unfortunately.  There's a used one on another site but the OP wants new.

Pindac, it occurs to me that at current exchange rates and considering your quoted cost for an SP1000R (SP10R plus plinth and tonearm) of 16K GBP, you could fly to Tokyo, have a nice vacation in Japan, and return to the UK with an SP1000R and cash to spare. Make no mistake, that unit ought to outperform any SP10 mk2.

When it comes to assessments about the SP10 MkII and the SP10 R.

I am sharing in communications across the Globe about the comparisons being put in place between the SP10's from Vintage through to the most recent production.

The SP10 R I listen to regularly, has a 30mm Thick Polished Aluminium Plinth produced by an Engineering Shop at a cost of £400.

The Dealer who supplied the TT. encouraged and introduced the TT owner to the method to achieve the Plinth, and produce a Mimic Plinthed version of the Plinthed SP1000 R.

As said previously the Standalone Tonearm Pod has been so successful the Glanz MH-1200s Tonearm remains mounted on it.

This Set Up impresses with a large impact, it has a very desirable SQ, but it does not separate in any noticeable measure from the Modified Vintage Models and take the lead with a clean set of heals as being suggested.

It was my Modified MkII and Bespoke Produced Tonearm that that is the foundation for these abandonment of individuals Old Ideas, and the influence that created the individuals to move to modern thought out designs.

A Multi £0000's Linn TT is a Superseded Table in relation to the SP10 R owner.   

The demonstrations of my Modified SP10 MkII and Tonearm, has also been the encourager to abandon another sort after Belt Drive for a Modified SP10 MkII and additionally, be the stimulus to another to produce a scratch designed / built Tonearm.

The MkII's that are now within the groups ownership, when produced in earlier guises, i.e, Plywood and MU25 Board Plinths have impressed with Parity to the SP10 R. The group consensus on this is unanimous.

The latest guises of the MkII's are much more evolved, as the Densified Wood used as a Plinth Material and allocation of P'holz for the exchange of other parts, is extremely notable for the improvement over the Plywood Plinth.

There is imminently to be tried a 'Densified Wood Chassis', reports from others based in other Countries is that this as a methodology, is a substantial improvement, as a design and impact for the better on the TT's presentation.

The Bespoke Built Tonearm Design in use having undergone fine tuning, and the Built from Scratch Tonearm having been given additional modifications, have proved, as a result of the extended works carried out, to be works that have exceptional valuable to the betterment. 

Prior to the individuals in another Country adopting Densified Wood Plinths, there was a few versions of the SP10 MkII in a Modified Form in use.

One owner who was a SP10 R owner and was involved in the modification works being undertaken got the point their 'R' was no longer the attractive TT, the modified Mk II was performing better than it.

The MkII today still remains their TT of choice and has recently been mounted in a Chassis produced from Densified Wood, and is being claimed to be the best to date (not my words). 

Make no mistake when covering a MkII as a TT Only, there is a substantial performance on offer for a very fair outlay, even if the route to achievement is a little of the usual trail for certain individuals. Technica got a lot correct in the days of the MkII being designed, add to this modern design approach and materials use, a lot more is to be extracted. 

For the cost of Donor SP10 MkII, @ $800 -1500. A Service from a trusted Technician with the correct background and Skills @ $300ish. A 25mm Board, 20-25 Veneer Ply's per 25mm Thickness, Orientated Veneers in a Cross Grain Structure, Phenolic Resin Densified Wood Plinth @ $200ish per Plinth Blank. Professional Machining of Plinth Blank @ $150ish.   

For approx' $2K, there will be a need to bring along TT's that are a substantially increased Value as the attempt to see where the MkII falls short.

Add to this design a MkII with a Speed Control Modification, a Densified Wood Chassis and a Platter Bearing Modification, Platter Modification. It will be most likely any TT available over $20-30K and upwards, might be the starting place required to show where a difference is to be discovered that is deemed as being a performance that is a betterment.

I am sure of the results from carrying out the methodology above, there is too much available info' from differing sources to confirm the findings are very valuable and wanted to be maintained.

This is now a method be be investigated to be used on the Denon DP-80.

At this stage of planning for the DP-80, I don't see too many hurdles to be a concern. Even the Bearing Housing Design has shown that it is quite an attractive structure and is a ideal donor for a modification, it can be easily worked with, to improve on the Old Design and potentially worn out part that is present. 


Good Lord, this is going off base. The OP wants to know if a respected ("ultimate-level" for most of us) TT with arm for a quarter of the usual price is a bargain.

It plainly is bargain of the century.

@essrand Do let us know what you decide to do.

I think people are. being unfair to the OP for having 100 records. MAny people claim to have 10k or more records and to know each one well which is almost impossible ie 10k records of 45 mins equates to 7500 hours - about 312 days 24/7. Can i just say that before embarking on a format for the special occasions - and before you really build a collection - listen to a good reel to reel. I was gobsmacked when I heard them in a room by Meridian (yes of digital fame) i've heard many a great turntable - and it was in a different league. 

I digress - if it is vinyl you want to build up (reel to reel takes a lot of space) go for it - enjoy it - we only live once - you clearly have a good ear with the Nagra gear you have already. Please factor in a cartridge and phono stage. A deck of that calibre requires a great cartridge - the best value high end cartridge which is.a great all rounder is a Benz Micro LPS - phono stages... Nagra PLP is very good - Parasound JC3 I understand to be good (I have a Vendetta SCP2A) - Whest make some very good ones too.


Can I just add that you won't lose much when selling it either - in fact it will probably hold value or even appreciate a bit because you would have got it at a great price in the first place.

BTW i'm not a huge fan of SME decks - but you clearly like it.

There has been 100% consensus that the SME at the quoted price is a bargain, like the SME or not.  For that reason, I think, the thread has wandered off course.  What more can anyone say about the question of whether the price is a good one? Perhaps the OP will let us know what are his intentions. Then we can put this to rest.